Cuba’s peaceful use of atomic energy
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THE 16th Non-Aligned Movement Summit addressed, among other issues, the use of atomic energy for peaceful ends, a practice developed in Cuba since the early years of the Revolution, at times discreetly, but in a responsible manner.

The use of atomic energy is regulated today by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), acknowledged by Cuba as the competent authority to verify countries’ fulfillment of the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, also signed by Cuba.

The first Cuban incursions into this practice date back to the 1940’s, with the introduction of X-Ray equipment, but at that time there were no regulations to control the use of radioactive sources or to protect persons involved in such procedures.

 

Since 1959, atomic energy has been utilized for medical ends and there have been sustained advances in protection against potentially harmful effects for life, health, property and the environment.

Thus, an infrastructure was developed in the 1960’s to utilize nuclear technology in biomedicine and radiobiology and subsequently – a large-scale development – in radiopharmacy. Radiopharmaceuticals or tracers are substances introduced into the body for monitoring purposes and to reflect images, a procedure which has facilitated the early diagnosis of bone, heart and oncological diseases, as well as infections and nephrology.

Later, in 1976, the USSR and Cuba signed a nuclear electricity program, part of a bilateral agreement which included the Juraguá electronuclear plant in Cienfuegos, and a further two stations in the west and east of the country.

Although this last aspect of the project, directed toward electricity generation, was truncated with the collapse of the socialist bloc, other aspects of the program are still moving ahead. For example, in 1987, Fidel Castro inaugurated the Nuclear Development Applied Studies Center for research into nuclear physics, radiobiology, materials science, analytic chemistry and nuclear electronics, as well as the assimilation of new technologies and medical equipment.

 

STRICT REGULATIONS

In Cuba, incursions into and experiments related to atomic energy have been subjected to the necessary supervision by the government and other institutions.

The country has always demonstrated the non-military ends of its projects and defended the unalienable right of all countries to utilize this energy source.

As early as 1979, the Atomic Energy Commission of Cuba and the Executive Secretariat of Nuclear Affairs were created but with the subsequent establishment in 1994 of the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment (CITMA) and its Nuclear Energy Agency, a large part of regulatory responsibilities came under the control of these entities.

Finally, Decree Law No. 207, on the use of nuclear energy, which went into effect in 2000, and assigned a dozen agencies and institutions tasks related to this issue, including CITMA, the Ministries of Public Health and Basic Industries, and the Commission created at the end of the 1970’s was dissolved.

Moreover, the National Nuclear Security Center was created in 1991, which has established work procedures in this field with acceptable security levels, and has attempted to minimize the possibility of nuclear and radioactive accidents.

 

ADVANCED PROFESSIONALS

Another key factor of developments in the atomic sector is the training of professionals. The Advanced Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology, now the Advanced Institute of Applied Science and Technology, was created in 1987, with specialties in radiochemistry, physics and nuclear engineering.

On the other hand, in 1980 Cuba entered the Nuclear Information International System, thus promoting national scientific literature on the subject internationally, where it has attained significant recognition.

At the same time, the Nucleus magazine was established to guarantee publications within the country. The review has been published uninterruptedly for 24 years and is considered the printed memory of the Cuban nuclear program.

Recent works which have been widely recognized include a 2007 Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology international multi-center study on isotopes and super-heavy elements, published in the German European Physical Journal A magazine, as noted by specialist Ricardo Arencibia in his article "21st Century Landmarks in Cuban science, a review of the works most cited in Scopus, 2006-2010."

 

ZERO NUCLEAR WEAPONS

On November 4, 2002, Cuba signed the Treaty for the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and did so not only to prevent the multiplication of these destructive armaments, but also to work, within the Treaty, for the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

That same year, the country also ratified the Treaty for the Proscription of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (Tlatelolco Treaty), despite the fact that the only nuclear power in the Americas maintains a policy of hostility against Cuba which does not exclude the use of force.

 

BY CAROL MUÑOZ NIEVES, Cuba Ahora 2012.